Police are urging tenants to ensure their real estate agents are legitimate after a faux agent swindled three people out of thousands of dollars.
Stonnington Criminal Investigation Unit Detective Senior Constable Megan McMullen said police were calling for information following deceptions by the fake agent in Middle Park, St Kilda and Windsor.
She said the incidents had occurred in mid January and “thousands of dollars” had been stolen from the victims.
“Basically we believe [the man] is advertising premises for rent on Gumtree – and they are real premises that are in fact for rent; he is purporting to be the real estate agent for the property, liaising with interested people on the telephone,” Senior Detective McMullen said.
“He then organises inspections with the persons interested, meeting them at the address and showing them around.”
Senior Detective McMullen said the faux agent then talked the victims into signing a proper lease agreement and proceeded to take their cash. She said he provided a bond receipt, which made the scam look legitimate.
Senior Detective McMullen said on one occasion the victim had moved into the property and was only alerted that they were not legal tenants when the legitimate real estate agent arrived to hold an open-for-inspection.
She said police believed the offender was choosing properties that were empty and changing the barrels of locks to gain his own set of keys, or getting local locksmiths to cut keys.
Senior Detective McMullen said the Gumtree advertisements looked like any other real estate advertisement on the site and urged prospective tenants to be vigilant with their property research.
“Be vigilant, cautious and make sure you check that the agent does actually work for the company they say they do,” she said.
“Check to see if there are boards out the front of the property and, if there is, make sure you call to confirm that the agent you are dealing with actually works for that company.”